Historically, beer has not had much of a place in the American kitchen, save the occasional beer brat or beer batter. The dominant mass produced American brews have been of the pale, light-tasting variety, the result of being diluted with corn and rice, and infused with preservatives. Today, thanks to the continuing resurgence of microbreweries, Americans are discovering true beer styles that are deserving more presence at the dinner table in the recipes served.

Beer makes a great substitute for milk, water, beef broth and even wine in most food recipes. It is nutritious, with healthful ingredients including niacin, riboflavin and calcium. You can use beer in soups, pancakes, pot roasts, and to make crispier batters. The flavor it adds to food makes for a whole new generation of family recipes! Beer loses the alcohol during cooking because as soon as it is heated to 173 degrees F., the alcohol evaporates, leaving the other ingredients (malted barley, hops and yeast) to flavor the food.

Clubs of America knows of one cookbook author specializing in beer recipes who recommends the Three C’s system of choosing which beer to cook with. A tart or bitter brew, for example, can effectively “Cut” the flavor of a rich creamy sauce. “Complement” a spicy or hearty food dish with an equally spicy or hearty beer. Lastly, there’s “Contrast,” when a bland food is made with a full-flavored, full-bodied beer.

Today, there are entire cookbooks devoted to cooking with beer, and the Internet offers endless recipes to try. Stock up on specialty brews to experiment with.

With the endless possibilities of combining beer and food, you really can make some magical things happen on your plate and your palate! And if, by chance, the food you’ve prepared isn’t exactly noteworthy, maybe the gravy will be! Most importantly, enjoy the experiments, and the experiences.

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